Donegal's Lorcan Connor with the Irish News cup at the press day. He'll be hoping to have it again on Monday night
Donegal U-21 manager, Declan Bonner, has called on Donegal supporters to travel in big numbers to support their team in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh tomorrow evening (Monday) at 8 p.m.
Donegal are on the trail of an eighth Ulster U-21 title when they face Derry in the final.
“I know Donegal supporters are disappointed with the venue, but that is out of our control and I would appeal to Donegal supporters, even though it is on Monday night, to travel in big numbers and get behind the team.”
Donegal, beaten in their last three finals, 2013, 2014 and 2015, now managed by Declan Bonner, are hoping to final an end that losing sequence against their Oak Leaf neighbours.
Donegal’s seventh title was back in 2010, under Jim McGuinness. But in the intervening years it has been U-21 final heartbreak, twice against Cavan and once by Tyrone.
“One of our goals for the year was to reach the Ulster final and now we are looking ahead to it against a very good Derry side,” said Donegal manager, Declan Bonner.
Donegal are in the final following a draw and win over Tyrone and comprehensive semi-final victory over Cavan last Wednesday night in Enniskillen.
“We played well enough against Tyrone the first night, it was a case of our finishing letting us down.
“We kicked 16 wides in the drawn game and it was one of those nights when nothing goes right for a team.
“Last Wednesday night we didn’t miss anything and sometimes it can happen that way and there is not a lot you can do to stop it
“When it happens you just grin and bear it. That first game against Tyrone was a tight game throughout and we were lucky that Danny Rodgers pulled off a good save and Ethan O’Donnell got back to scoop the ball off the line to keep us in it.
“The second night we upped our game and put in a very good second half performance and on last Wednesday night we played well again against Cavan.
“And the boys are now just looking forward to the final and they can’t wait to Monday night.”
We played Derry a number of weeks back in a behind closed doors challenge game and it was a very tight match.
“We won it by a point but there was nothing between the teams. We know Derry are a talented side and we know a lot of Derry boys have won a lot of stuff in Colleges football and minor championships.
“Boys like Jack Doherty, Patrick Kearney, Shane McGuigan, Danny Tallon, Niall Keenan, Michael McEvoy, Peter Hagan, you can name them all off. They are all quality players.
“They have six or seven players that played senior with Derry.
“We have met Derry at U-16, U-17, minor and U-21 and we know their players well and they know us well and a fierce rivalry has developed between the teams.
But it is a good healthy rivalry.
“They are managed by Fergal McCusker, who is a good manager and it is going to be a good Ulster U-21 final. Derry are in the final on merit," said Bonner.
Derry are in the final on the back of wins over Monaghan, the reigning U-21 champions (away in Inniskeen), in the first round.
And they followed that up with an extra time semi-final win over Armagh last Wednesday night in Celtic Park.
Michael Langan is the leading Donegal scorer with 0-16, from three games.
Danny Tallon and Peter Hagan with 0-8 each, share the top spot for Derry from their two games.
But the two teams have a good spread of scorers in their games to date.
Donegal have had 11 different scorers in their three games while six different Derry men have hit the target.
And the Donegal team is laced with quality right throughout the team. Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Cian Mulligan, Jason McGee, Jamie Brennan, Michael Carroll, Michael Langan and Stephen McBrearty all featured with Donegal in this season’s Allianz League.
Kieran Gillespie missed last Wednesday night’s win over Cavan with a hamstring injury.
And he is set to miss out on Monday’s showdown with Derry, but otherwise Declan Bonner has reported a fit squad.
Derry are appearing in the final for the first time since 2008 and are bidding for their first win since 1997. It would also be their eighth.
Monday night’s final is Ulster U-21 final number 55 and is also the last as the U-21 championship is being replaced by an U-20 championship from next year.
Donegal won the first of their seven titles back in 1963. They defeated Cavan 3-6 to 1-3 in the final.